Tag Archives: Mike Feuer

In Los Angeles City Attorney’s race, NRA takes center stage

Full disclosure: I, as well as many organizations with which I am affiliated, have endorsed Mike Feuer for Los Angeles City Attorney.

Politicos in Los Angeles don’t get a break after Presidential elections. In the Southland, we have to make a practically immediate pivot from our national November elections to our biennial Municipal elections, which occur in March of odd-numbered years. For Angelenos, this election is more contentious than any cycle since 2005, when Antonio Villaraigosa defeated Kenneth Hahn in a rematch of Hahn’s 2001 victory. Mayor Villaraigosa is termed out, and the battle to replace him is taking up a substantial amount of oxygen. But as the presumed frontrunners in the mayoral race campaign to define both themselves and their opponents, there is already a strong contrast in the race for City Attorney.

The incumbent City Attorney is an independent–from a party point of view, at least–named Carmen Trutanich. Trutanich was elected in 2009 after defeating unpopular City Councilmember Jack Weiss in a runoff. Despite having pledged to serve two terms and not run for another office while serving as City Attorney, however, Trutanich ran to succeed Republican Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, whom you might remember from his narrow 2010 loss to Kamala Harris in the California Attorney General race. Trutanich’s campaign, though, did not go as planned. Conventional wisdom among the political class in Los Angeles said that Trutanich would win easily because of his advantage in both money and endorsements. But voters apparently held him accountable for violating his pledge: he failed to even make the general election. thus guaranteeing that to salvage his political career, he would have to actually fulfill at least part of his pledge and run for a second term as Los Angeles City Attorney. Keep in mind, however, that to really fulfill his pledge, Trutanich would have to do this, since he already violated it by running for District Attorney in the first place:

Should the pledge be violated, a penalty of $100,000 must be paid to LA’s Best After School Program from the violator’s personal funds. In addition, the candidate breaking the Pledge must purchase one full-page newspaper advertisement in every daily newspaper in Los Angeles to be run on the first Sunday following the breach of the Pledge. The ad must include a large headshot of the candidate in question, a copy of the Pledge and the words, “I AM A LIAR”, in large block print.

We’re still waiting for that, and I imagine we’ll be waiting for quite a while. In any case, Trutanich’ main obstacle in his unanticipated quest for re-election is former Assemblymember Mike Feuer, who was commonly viewed during his time in office as one of California’s most effective legislators. Feuer has received the unanimous backing of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and is the consensus choice of most grassroots Democratic groups throughout the city. The reasons why go far beyond the obvious fact that Feuer is a Democrat, while Trutanich is not. There are significant issues of contrast, perhaps most notably on the hot-button issue of gun control.

Before becoming the City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich was a co-owner of a firm called Trutanich Michel LLP. Now that Trutanich is in the City Attorney’s office, the firm has rebranded itself as Michel and Associates, P.C., though the firm declares that despite Trutanich’s departure, all the talented attorneys and staff have remained. What’s notable about the this law firm? Well, they were and still are the go-to law firm for the National Rifle Association:

Our clients include the National Rifle Association, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, law enforcement agencies and officers, industry trade associations, gun shows, importers, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, indoor and outdoor shooting ranges, special-effects companies, prop houses, armories, pyrotechnicians, and individuals who face firearms-related federal or state licensing and compliance issues or criminal charges. Michel & Associates, P.C. is Consulting Counsel to firearm retailer advocate FFLGuard for all California legislative and litigation issues.

And what would you go to them for? Well, if you want to get laws overturned that were passed by gun rights advocates:

Whether challenging a law’s constitutionality, advocating to invalidate or change a law, or simply determining the most cost-effective way to comply with it, our lawyers have been there. We know where to find answers when illogical, ill-conceived and poorly implemented laws do not provide them. We know the state and local requirements and politics. Our network of professional relationships includes politicians and political staffers, as well as staff at regulatory agencies administrating firearms laws.

As a matter of fact, Trutanich’s former partner Chuck Michel even maintains CalGunLaws.com, an advocacy and information site for gun rights activists. So, this is how Carmen Trutanich made his money in the private sector: being paid by the NRA to challenge gun safety laws designed to protect the public. No surprise, then, that Trutanich got the endorsement of the NRA during his 2009 race. But who wrote many of those laws? Mike Feuer.

Mike Feuer used to serve on the Los Angeles City Council before being elected to the State Assembly in 2006. During his time on both bodies, Feuer authored legislation on many issues of interest to gun safety advocates, including requiring sale of trigger locks, background checks and bullet sale restrictions, record keeping, and limiting gun purchases to one per month. Mike Feuer has been endorsed by the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, and recently released his own plan to curb gun violence in Los Angeles.

Trutanich, on the other hand, profited off of the NRA to oppose exactly this type of legislation during his private-sector career. During his 2009 campaign, Trutanich took the NRA line, claiming that “we don’t need more laws to control guns. We have the laws. We just need to enforce them.” But now, ever the political opportunist who will say what he has to in order to win, Trutanich is taking the exact opposite line. Trutanich recognizes that this re-election bid–which, keep in mind, he never wanted to wage in the first place–hinges on increased popular demand for gun safety laws owing to the Sandy Hook tragedy. Still, there are some areas of policy disagreement, as well as signs that Trutanich still can’t put his NRA past behind him.

During his last term in the Assembly, Feuer passed a bill in the Assembly requiring microstamping of guns, which would make law enforcement investigations easier. As the LA Weekly reports, Trutanich and his allies are opposing this law:

The bill requires that all semi-automatic handguns sold in California be equipped with a microstamp that imprints a numeric code on the shell casing when the gun fires. Police can then use the code on the casing to find out who purchased the gun. The measure was backed by the Brady Campaign and by dozens of California police chiefs and sheriffs, including LAPD Chief Bill Bratton and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Taylor noted that the law, which was signed in 2007, still has not been implemented. The New York Times reported last year that the measure has been held up due to a patent dispute, and due to the maneuvering of gun rights organizations.

“Maybe it’s unworkable, impractical,” Taylor said. “So far, Mr. Feuer’s micro-stamping bullet plan seems like it’s more of a gun control stunt, than a solution.”

In an interview, Feuer said it was “breathtaking” for Trutanich’s campaign to “trivialize something that is so important to the sheriff and the police chief in his jurisdiction.”

Feuer has rightfully made an issue of Trutanich’s NRA-funded past, calling on him to return the profits he received from opposing California’s laws at its increasingly radical behest. Trutanich, meanwhile, who has not disclosed how much he profited from working from the NRA or the firearms industry at large, is trying to deflect the criticism with a demand for Feuer to return his salary on the grounds that he didn’t earn it:

Taylor shot back that Feuer has failed as a Sacramento lawmaker. “The taxpayers’ paid Feuer to do a job. He failed miserably. Return the money, Mike. You didn’t earn it,” Taylor said.

Kind of an ironic claim, isn’t it? To begin with, Trutanich has been so ineffective at doing his job that the City Council has passed motions to try to get its own lawyers. And even beyond that, Trutanich of all people should know how effective Mike Feuer has been in office. His own law firm has undoubtedly spent time working for the NRA and other affiliates in the gun lobby to oppose Feuer’s laws. His former constituents, including me, can attest to his work ethic. US Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who knows a thing or two about gun control, called him “one of California’s most dynamic and effective elected officials.”

So maybe Trutanich should quit his campaign and do what he knows best–representing the NRA–and let the City Attorney’s office be run by someone who’s competent. Who knows–maybe Trutanich will get the opportunity to represent the NRA in a suit against the City Attorney after Feuer wins? Wouldn’t that be ironic.

JUST SAY NO_PDLA joins Calitics on May 19 ballot initiatives

At the April meeting of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, we considered the propositions on the upcoming May 19 ballot. We urge you to READ all of them http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/ as well as the analysis pieces. These were put onto the ballot at the end of the budget session in February when Republican Abel Maldonado, Santa Maria, cut a deal to end the budget stalemate with Senate Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg. See this article for background: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02…  In addition to these lovely initiatives, Maldonado got the Democrats to agree to put the question of an OPEN PRIMARY to the voters. This one is NOT on this May ballot, however.  

Assemblyman Mike Feuer spoke for the “PRO” side of the initiatives, and Calitics writer David Dayen spoke for the “NO” side.

Within the discussion, comments included: most citizens are really sick of our legislature taking the easy way out and NOT dealing with the real elephant in the room–CORPORATE CONTROL of our government. No one agreed with the usual targets for budget cutting–mental health, schools, childhood programs (all funding previously VOTED FOR via the initiative process). And there was a strong reaction against the fear-mongering talking points that have been sent along for these initiatives. Questions on why there were more corporate tax breaks added during the budget session and why so little was done about the burgeoning prison-industrial complex budget which wasn’t cut.

There are many reasons for the state being in this condition today. One is the application of Proposition 13 to commercial properties from 1978 onward. My recollection, having lived through that as the political deputy to City Controller Ira Reiner (who supported 13 and helped give it credibility), is that 13 was meant to apply to single family residences. Because this was another of the many poorly worded initiatives voters have passed in frustration over the inaction of our state legislature, the so-called clarification AFTER it passed added in the commercial properties. Commercial real estate does not change ownership nearly as frequently as residential properties, and they use loopholes to avoid revaluation. They have enjoyed the lowest real estate taxes in the country ever since, as our education spending plummeted, in tandem, to become one of the lowest in the country also.  

Another reason is the continual kow-towing to corporate interests and their lobbyists. Corporate tax breaks abound, and California remains one of the few states WITHOUT an oil severance tax. Hard choices for our legislators who continue to raise campaign funds from these same corporations and try to tell us that these contributions don’t influence their votes. Yea, sure. Possibly Clean Money could make a difference if we were to believe that there will be a quantum shift in ethics once it’s put into place. This was what was SUPPOSED to have happened a few decades ago when the legislature was made full time and given full time salaries (now at $130,000). See Bill Boyarsky’s recent book for a backgrounder on the state legislature: http://www.amazon.com/Big-Dadd…

Many expressed outrage over the speaker’s revenge on those voting against this “deal with the devil” (as one person described it). Three assemblymembers lost their committee chairmanships as well as their previously assigned offices when they voted against these intiatives: http://www.latimes.com/news/lo…

Another suggested that Democrats who go along with this Republican outrage are victims of the Stockholm Syndrome (WIKI: a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed).

Much is being made about the need to either get a 2/3 majority in both houses of the state legislature OR to pass a simple majority rule. Either of these could work to marginalize the minority party except for the fact that Arnold and his Republican minions got Democrats to join them and pass Proposition 11 last fall (it gives them equal redistricting power regardless of their dwindling numbers). And, if they had DONE anything about either of these options earlier, we wouldn’t be hamstrung now (Feuer noted that he is new in the legislature and acknowledged the failures of the past as a cause for the present).

No one really knows what will be done if the initiatives do not pass. And legislators don’t seem to think that far ahead. https://calitics.com/diary/… Robert Cruickshank has his opinion on May 20th on this posting, and I started a list of “things to do” for our state legislators to get them focused on what real people are more interested in having them do.

Obviously, solving the healthcare crisis with immediate passage of SB810 would be a real step forward IF Democrats Susan Kennedy and Maria Shriver would push Arnold to sign it. Maybe he could leave office without having horns drawn on every picture, if he actually came through on this ONE thing.

Here’s a little reminder of the origins of our present Initiative 1A. Remember when all of the unions mobilized back in ’05 and we all shouted out a big NO to Arnold’s propositions? I do, because I walked the hills and long stairways of my Woodland Hills precinct.  Let’s take a look back to 2005’s Proposition 76 http://www.politicalgateway.co…

No on Proposition 76 – This proposition allows the governor to declare a fiscal emergency and cut any program by any amount he chooses. The issue is whether this power is properly vested in the governor.

If the initiative passes, the governor could undo decisions made by voters previously. School funding, health, police and emergency rooms, among other expenditures, would be at risk.

If the initiative fails, the governor would have less power to act in years when the budget is in a crisis.

Our state government is like the federal government in that power is shared by the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Giving the power to the governor to overturn prior decisions made by voters upsets this balance too much.

Here’s your reading set for the day: http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2…  The state pays for a Legislative Analyst to go over ALL of these initiatives and explain them in relatively clear language. On page 5: “If Proposition 1A passes, the Governor would be given new authority to reduce certain types of spending during a fiscal year without additional legislative approval.” La De Da. Just what he wanted and was denied by the massive outpouring of unions that crushed Prop 76 three years ago. What happened? This time around we see a splitting of the unions. I’ll always recall CTA endorsing Republican Bruce McPherson over Debra Bowen, so they’ll NEVER have any credibility in my book. CTA-yes, CFT-no.  http://www.cft.org/  Getting a late start on this, SEIU has joined the NO side: http://www.sacbee.com/capitola…

More on that same important page 5: “The fiscal effects of Proposition 1A are particularly difficult to assess. This is because the measure’s effects would depend on a variety of factors that will change over time and cannot be accurately predicted.”  And THIS is the initiative that our legislature is trying to tell us we MUST PASS???

And last point, many felt that pushing off these decisions onto the electorate by the initiative process is just another way for the legislators to abdicate their responsibility. Whatever happens in this election, they can just point to the voters and blame them (us)…either way. Catch 22 all over again.

So, PDLA joins Calitics and says “Just Say NO” to all of these initiatives.  

Mike Feuer moves forward bill to increase sales tax in LA County to pay for subway

Last week the Assembly passed AB2321, which would put before Los Angeles County voters a ballot proposition for an increase in the sales tax in Los Angeles County from 8.25% to 8.75% (an increase of only 50 cents per $100 spent) to pay for subway expansion projects, including expanding the purple line to Santa Monica and the green line to LAX.

The bill was passed by my Assemblymember, Mike Feuer, and I’m really proud of him for pushing it through.  Nevertheless, there are a couple of hurdles, beyond the fact that it will require a 2/3 majority of L.A. County voters to pass (not inconceivable, but still not easy).  Most notably:

1. Feuer’s office still must find a way to ensure that the bill applies to this year’s election. An urgency clause that would have done that was dropped from the bill because of a lack of Republican support. The word “tax” makes GOP lawmakers nervous, particularly in an election year.

2. The MTA Board will vote at its June 26 meeting whether to ask the Board of Supervisors to vote to put the sales tax hike on the November ballot — in other words, they’re assuming the bill will eventually pass the Legislature. Confusing? Think of it this way: The five supes have a lot of juice on this issue because they’re also members of the MTA Board!

Here’s what I would do: Contact the MTA and ask them to ask the Supes to put this before the voters of L.A. County.

I gotta tell you–I would pay a lot more than 50 cents per every $100 if it meant I could get a subway to UCLA, Santa Monica, and especially LAX.  It’s finally time for Metro to help us mid-city and Westside LA dwellers get our cars on the road only when we need them.

P.S. need any evidence that we can get a 2/3 majority here?  Just look at this poll result from LA Curbed.

“I believe that there is market manipulation at the refinery level”

That was Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez today at an event in downtown Los Angeles, in front of a Chevron station (that was selling gas for a low low $3.49, I think the advance man could’ve found stations 30-40 cents higher without too much trouble), as he announced with Assemblymen Mike Davis, Mike Feuer and Mike Eng a series of bills to combat rising gas prices and the artificial depression of refinery supply.  The bills will seek to oversee refinery maintenance, expand regulatory authority, and deal with the “hot fuel” issue.  The Speaker said that “During the electricity crisis a few years ago, California adopted similar measures to keep energy companies from using these convenient (refinery) shutdowns to amp up their profits, and today we’re going to make sure oil companies can’t use Enron-like tactics on California consumers.”

This is an object lesson in why now was the exact wrong time for the CDP to accept $50,000 from the prime progenitor of those Enron-style tactics.  And it actually came up in the press conference.  A full report on the flip, with audio to come.

Nunez referenced a Wall Street Journal article (behind the wall, sadly) that detailed how refineries are cashing in on high gas prices by artificially lowering their supply through various methods, particularly shutdowns.  The three bills work out this way:

1) new oversight committee: Nunez and Eng’s bill would create the California Petroleum Refinery Standards Committee, made up of the Attorney General, the State Controller and a couple political appointees, which would develop standards for maintenance and operations at California refineries, would look into shutdowns and would increase mandatory reporting from oil companies regarding them, would take audits and inspections, and would ensure compliance.  Penalties for not complying to these standards, would be “very stiff” and would be considered felonies, not misdemeanors.

2) “Hot fuels”: temperature varies in fuel, and it impacts the weight of gasoline, which since it’s sold by the gallon impacts the price.  The suspicion is that oil companies are manipulating temperature variations to give the consumer less for its money.  Assemblyman Mike Davis’ bill would seek a comprehensive study, cost-benefit analysis, and recommendations on what the national standard for gasoline temperature should be.  Right now it’s 60 degrees; the concern is that the number should be higher.

3) Petroleum Industry Information Reporting Act: oil companies are not releasing enough data to determine properly the efficacy of inventory levels and profit margins.  Assemblyman Mike Feuer’s bill would mandate monthly financial reports on oil supply, demand, and price issues.  It would also allow that information to be shared with the Attorney General and the Board of Equalization.

These appear to be decent bills that correctly address the issue of artificial refinery supply.  However, in the question-and-answer session that followed, there was an example of why it is not smart to play both sides of this fence.

The fact that the backdrop of the press conference was a Chevron statement is telling; after all, they own 25% of the refineries in the state, and they are getting rich off the high gas prices being made by their actions at those refineries.  The VERY FIRST QUESTION offered to Speaker Nunez was about his trip to South America paid for in part by Chevron.  Nunez replied that the trip was “insignificant,” that the trip was taken to learn more about alternative fuels in South America, that he stands for issues that are important to Democrats, and that he resented any attempt to question his ethics.  And right after the presser was over, during a sort of press gaggle, he told the radio reporter who asked that question that is was either a “cheap shot” or a “chicken shit” question (I wasn’t quite close enough to fully make it out).  The reporter replied that the information was out there and she was just giving the Speaker a chance to respond.

Clearly that’s a fair question.  And clearly it’s fair to ask whether, at a time where the Speaker of the Assembly is accusing Chevron of market manipulation and of engaging in “Enron-like tactics,” it’s the best time for the CDP to be taking a $50,000 contribution from that same corporation.  Now more than ever, the message should be united, and the perception here is quite confusing, and more hurtful than the money is helpful.  I appreciate these efforts to stop market manipulation, but I do not appreciate giving the opposition another arrow in their quiver through the appearance of impropriety of this donation.  I renew and strengthen my call for the Party to return the money and work in more innovative ways to fundraise and grow the party.